Is Obama More Pro-Israel than Bush?
There has been much talk lately about President Obama’s “anti-Israel” policy, which apparently played a big role in New York’s recent special election resulting in a Republican victory by businessman Bob Turner in a Democratic stronghold. The Wall Street Journal has editorialized that Obama “has built the most consistently one-sided diplomatic record against Israel of any American president in generations.” And The Times has written that Obama is working hard to bring peace but has been hampered by Palestinian intransigence and Netanyahu’s unwillingness to compromise. Both of these narratives are in fact grossly misleading.
The sad truth is that Obama is just another in a long line of presidents who is stridently “pro-Israel.” Before we go any further, let’s analyze what being “pro-Israel” actually means. Washington’s attitude towards the Middle East, which has long been recognized by U.S. planners as “the most strategically important area in the world,” has for decades revolved around suppressing Arab nationalism and democracy by supporting dictators and Israel to subdue populations and ensure “stability,” which is really a euphemism for control over the region’s oil and establishing military bases.
This is why, among an endless supply of examples, the CIA overthrew the democratically elected Mohammed Mosaddeq of Iran in 1953, replacing him with the Shah, who was a brutal tyrant. And this is also why the White House kicked the “special relationship” with Israel into high gear after the Six Day War, when Israel crushed Egyptian leader Nasser, who had been working to unite Arabs under a secular nationalist order. The United States has supported Israel for decades, supplying it with billions in aid and heavy military investment, with the understanding that Israel will further quash Arab nationalism by repressing the Palestinians. Being “pro-Israel,” in other words, means supporting the policy of having Israel do Washington’s dirty work. And Israeli policymakers love this arrangement because since its inception the state has sought to create a “greater Israel,” which includes as much territory as possible. Such ambitions have prompted Israel to start wars of aggression throughout its history, from the occupations of the West Bank and Gaza (which still continues under a different guise) to settlements and bombing campaigns in Egypt in the 1970’s, which led to the disastrous Yom Kippur war, to countless invasions of Lebanon.
Now, has Obama been “pro-Israel” in accordance with this paradigm? Arguably more so than any of his predecessors, which is saying something. Since 1976 the entire international community, including the Arab League, has repeatedly supported a two-state solution based on the basic wording of UN Resolution 242. That is, the entire international community except for Israel, the United States and usually one or two other countries, such as El Salvador. Time after time the US has vetoed UN resolutions for a settlement and halt to Israeli aggression, though this generally goes unreported in the Western mass media.
Obama has gone to greater lengths to support Israeli aggression than even George W. Bush. As a Senator in 2006, during Israel’s brutal invasion of Lebanon that killed 900 civilians according to human Rights Watch, Obama co-sponsored a Senate resolution that was designed to ensure nothing be done to stop the attacks and even sanction states that tried to interfere, such as Iran and Syria. When Obama won the election, in late 2008 to early 2009 Israel was engaged in a massive invasion of Gaza, slaughtering nearly 1500 people, many of them civilians, in a massacre which formed the basis for the Goldstone Report. The UN passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire, and Obama refused to support it or condemn Israel’s war crimes.
Most astonishing, however, is what took place last February. It is official US policy to oppose Israeli expansion of settlements in the West Bank. In February, the UN proposed a Security Council resolution which at its core condemned expanding the settlements as an obstacle to attaining peace. Obama vetoed the resolution. Just think about that for a minute. Historically, the United States has permitted Israel to do as it pleases in the occupied territories, but at least publicly condemned the settlements in an effort to create the appearance that it values human rights. Under Obama even this bare pretense has been extinguished. The clear message is that America will make no official attempt to conceal that it supports raw aggression.
As for the uproar over Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel last year, notice that Washington was not upset about the expansion of settlements. It was merely offended that Netanyahu’s government announced Israel will expand at an inopportune moment. The source of conflict was simply a public relations matter. Not of substance. Netanyahu has opted to curry favor with the Republicans and bash Obama because the right wing supports his stance on not even pretending to pursue negotiations.
In fact, Obama has taken no serious measures to curtail Israel’s dangerous behavior—dangerous for everyone, including Israel and the United States. Obama has not only refused to compel Israel to participate in nominal international efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons, but he has even upheld the policy of permitting Israel to maintain its vast supply of nuclear weapons without international monitoring. As the most aggressive player in the Middle East for decades, Israel, not Iran, serves as the prime impetus for an arms race in the region. It is precisely in part because Israel has weapons of mass destruction that Iran seeks an arsenal of its own. We must oppose Iran’s efforts to construct WMD, but we must also compel Israel, and the rest of the world including the United States for that matter, to abandoned weapons programs that can obliterate the planet.
All this makes laughable the allegations that Obama is not “pro-Israel.” Obama is not pro-Israel the same way he’s a socialist. These are carefully crafted propaganda campaigns by the right wing and corporate media, which is dominated by the pro-Israel consensus which permeates America. If the power elite can portray Obama as a Palestinian-loving liberal in spite of his radically right wing record, they can set a precedent for future presidents to elevate Zionist/US militarism to even new heights.
The Wall Street Journal op-ed bases its charges against Obama on the flimsiest evidence, selecting some of Obama’s disingenuous rhetoric about the Israel-Arab conflict to create the false appearance that he cares about the Palestinians, a premise in itself which is unacceptable. One of the many pathetic pieces of “evidence” the op-ed points to is how in February 2011 “Mr. Obama returned to his habit of urging Israelis to engage in self-reflection, inviting Jewish community leaders to the White House and instructing them to ‘search your souls’ about Israel’s dedication to peace.” In the greatest bit of irony, the editorial concludes by saying Obama’s “problem with Jewish voters is one of substance, not messaging.” There is of course no mention of Obama’s record of vetoing UN resolutions that condemn Israel’s crimes.
And last week the New York Times ran a front page story and editorial that read like propaganda pieces on behalf of the Obama administration. They attempted to dispel notions that Obama is not a “friend of Israel” by pointing to his tough sanctions regime against Iran, among other actions. But both articles were implicitly steeped in and reinforced the assumption that Obama is either not pro-Israel, or at least not as pro-Israel as previous presidents.
The Times attempts to portray Obama as a peace seeker, a leader trying to bridge an intransigent Palestinian leadership and a hot-headed Israeli prime minister. This is misleading. The peace talks, like nearly all such peace talks, were merely a show. The premise that America can objectively broker a deal in the Israel-Palestine conflict is absurd, as Israel is one of America’s most important strategic client states and the Palestinians, along with all Muslims in the Middle East, pose a threat to American hegemony in the region. This is why the United States launched a boycott of Hamas after the Palestinians voted them into power in an internationally recognized legitimate election. If Obama were at all serious about peace talks he would not continue the long trend of vetoing UN resolutions to bring a settlement and instead approve an international effort to end the conflict.
But he has already made it clear that his administration will yet again oppose progress by vetoing the impending UN resolution for Palestinian statehood. Already the US and Israel are gearing up for confrontation, as the IDF has armed settlers in the West Bank with tear gas to crush a possible rebellion.
If Obama were pro-Israel in a non-Orwellian sense, he would stop supplying Israel with billions in aid to devastate the Palestinians, who continue to be evicted from their homes and forced to live in Israeli-controlled ghettos, which are plagued by daily attacks, mass poverty and squalor. It is this brutal, illegal policy which has pushed Palestinians to resort to terrorism for decades, according to a former head of Shin Bet. Such aggression not only stains the state of Israel, it is also one of the great crimes for which America bears responsibility. Indeed, if Obama were at all concerned about creating a Palestinian state with full sovereignty and normalized relations, America would win a major victory in its campaign to curtail terror, as Bin Laden and his cohorts have made it very clear that one of their chief grievances and recruitment tools is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
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